Celebrated for her vocals, her impeccable songwriting skills and her ability to entertain, Mariah Carey is a legend in her own right. No female artist has had more number ones than her. She has won five Grammy awards and other numerous awards, as well as selling millions of albums. She is known for her drive, hard work and of course her talent. She is the only artist comparable to the late Whitney Houston in her ability to hit the high notes flawlessly.
Mariah Carey was born in Huntington, New York to Alfred Carey and Patricia Carey. Her father is an African American while her mother is of Irish descent. Her mother was a part time opera singer and a vocal coach before she met Mariah’s father. Her father was an aeronautical engineer. They got married in 1960 and moved into the suburbs in New York. Mariah’s mother was disowned by her family because she had married a black man. Mariah has said that she struggled with the neglect of her ethnicity when she was young. When Mariah was aged three, her parents got a divorce. She has said that as a child she struggled with being different from everyone else as after her parents divorced Mariah had to move around a lot. Mariah has two siblings; Alison and Morgan.
After her parents divorced, Alison went to live with her father while Morgan and Mariah were left to live with their mother. Mariah’s relationship with her father became increasingly strained and she stopped seeing him with time. Mariah developed interest in music after her parents divorced; she would sneak a radio under her covers just so she could listen to music that identified with her emotions. In her elementary school, Mariah excelled in artistic subjects such as arts, music and literature. She was however not interested in other subjects. Mariah’s mother worked hard to overcome their financial troubles and eventually she was able to move her family to a more affluent neighborhood in New York. By this time, Mariah had started writing poems and creating melodies.
In high school she was already a singer and songwriter. She attended Harborfields High School in Greenlawn, New York, and graduated in 1987. Carey was excellent in music and was already skilled in tones and her whistle register. Mariah’s mother had been training her and coaching her vocals ever since she was four-years old. Patricia had introduced her daughter to classical opera. Mariah commented that her mother was very open-minded and she never pushed her too hard to do music because she wanted her daughter to make her own choices.
Mariah kept her songwriter notebook a secret and only her mother knew about it. She believes that her mother’s vocal coaching influenced her. It was in high school that Mariah met Christopher Gavin, and the two friends wrote songs together. They added another member, Ben, who played the keyboard. Mariah and Christopher started composing songs in his father’s store when they were in senior year. Their first song was titled ‘Here We Go Round Again’. They went ahead to compose more materials trying to look for songs for a full-length demo.
After high school, Mariah moved to Manhattan and began living in a one bedroom apartment. She worked as a waitress, coat girl and a student of cosmetology. At night she pursued her music career and wrote more songs. Mariah was never that good at holding a job down. She would get fired in two weeks and look for another hotel as she needed the money to pay rent. She would meet Margulies at night and work with him with the hopes of completing her demo. Mariah gave her demo to various labels but they rejected her. She was introduced to Brenda Starr who was a pop singer. This began her journey in the music industry.
Mariah became friends with Brenda, she started helping her and she wanted her to succeed. In 1988, Brenda asked Mariah to accompany her to a record executive gala. It was there that Mariah was able to give her demo to Columbia Records head Tommy Mottola. Tommy listened to the demo on his way back home and was immediately interested. Two weeks later he was able to get a hold of Mariah and offered to sign her to the record company. They came up with a plan to introduce Mariah to the world. Tony and Colombia Records executive planned to make Mariah the main female artist and wanted her to compete with the other two big female stars; Whitney Houston and Madonna. Mariah’s first album was titled Vision of Love and was released in 1989. It rose up the charts steadily and she won a Grammy for ‘Best New Artist’ and ‘Best Pop Performance’. Four singles from the album were featured in the Billboard Hot 100. This made Mariah the first female artist to have four singles on Billboard 100. By 1991, Vision of Love had sold over 15 million copies.
In 1991, Mariah started recording her second album. She wanted to experiment with Motown soul music. She titled the album Emotions and was a tribute to the music she grew up listening to. Mariah and Margulies fell out because she had signed a contract with him that said that he would earn half of her music royalties as well as half of her earnings. However, Columbia Records told him that he would earn the same as the other songwriters working on the album. The album was released on September 17, 1991. The album managed to sell 8 million copies but it was not received well critically. It was not as commercially successful as her debut album.
After the album, people expected Mariah to go on tour. Mariah had stage fright which led to accusations that she was a studio worm and that she couldn’t sing the full length of her vocal range in front of an audience. Mariah appeared on MTV unplugged hoping to put the accusations to rest. Mariah recorded a cover for the Jackson 5’s ‘I’ll Be There’. The song was met with rave reviews. Since she had recorded a whole EP, Sony decided to market it and sell it at a lower price. The EP proved that Mariah was not a studio worm and that she could perform The EP was certified triple platinum.
In 1993, Mariah started working on her third album. She titled it Music Box. She wanted the album to have a pop feel so that it could sell more than her previous albums. The album was released on August 31 that same year. The album met mixed reviews, the content was praised but critics observed that Mariah didn’t use her full vocal range on the album. The album debuted at number one on Billboard 100. The second single from the album ‘Hero’ became one of Maria’s biggest hits of all time. The single peaked at number 8 on the Billboard 100. Music Box has sold over 32 million copies worldwide making it one of the best-selling albums of all time.
In 1994, Mariah released her fourth album Merry Christmas. The album became the highest selling Christmas album selling over 15 million copies. The lead single ‘All I Want for Christmas is You’ was met with rave reviews and is considered one of her finest works. Mariah followed up her Holiday album with Daydream which was released on October 3, 1995. The album topped Hot 100 charts for 16 weeks. The album sold over 25 million units and was heralded by critics as Mariah’s best work.
Mariah took a different approach on her next albums. For the album Butterfly, she collaborated with different writers. The album was released in 1997 and was marked by the fact that Mariah didn’t use the upper range of her vocals. She described the album vocals as ‘breath vocals’. Some critics argued that her vocals were waning while others argued that it was a sign of maturity. The album met positive reviews though. In 1999 she released Rainbow. The album marked the culmination of her feud with Sony that had been brewing for a time. The label refused to promote the album and Mariah urged her fans to request for her lead single. Eventually the album was released and even though it met positive reviews, it was not commercially successful.
Since Rainbow, Mariah has released several albums with varying degrees of success, these albums are Glitter (2001), Charm Bracelet (2002), The Emancipation of Mimi (2005), E=MC² (2008), Memoirs of an Imperfect Angel (2009), Merry Christmas II You (2010) and Me. I Am Mariah… The Elusive Chanteuse (2014).
Mariah is a well-known philanthropist. She became involved with Fresh Air Fund, which was a project to help inner city youths embrace arts and opportunities. The project named a camp after her because she had supported them. Mariah was given a Congressional Horizon Award for her efforts to help the youth. Mariah also donated the royalties for her songs ‘Hero’ and ‘One Sweet Day’ to charity. She has done a lot of work for the Make a Wish Foundation which grants wishes to children with life threatening conditions. Mariah has contributed a lot to New York City Police Athletic league. In 2008, she was named Hunger Ambassador by World Hunger Relief Movement.
In February 2010 Mariah’s song ‘100%’ was used as theme song for the Winter Olympics and all the proceeds were given to Team USA. Mariah has been an avid supporter for the Save the Music Foundation and appeared at the event ‘America; Tribute for Heroes’ after the 9/11 attacks. In 2001, she performed for peace keeping troops in Kosovo. In 2005, Mariah’s Shelter from the Storm event raised funds to help victims of Hurricane Katrina.
In 2008, Mariah attended a new year’s concert organized by Muammar Gaddafi. After Gaddafi was overthrown, Mariah said she felt horrible and that she would donate the money she earned to charity. The royalties for the song ‘Save The Day’ were donated to human rights organizations to make amends for the Gaddafi concerts. Initially, Mariah avoided endorsements because she wanted her music to take center stage. However after 2006, she started working with various brands to endorse their projects. She has worked with Pepsi, Motorola, American Claire’s and Icing stores. She has her own fragrance called “M”. In 2007, Forbes named her the fifth richest woman in show business.
Mariah began dating her label head Tommy Mottola when she was recording Music Box. They got married on June 5, 1993. After she released Daydream in 1995 she wanted to focus on her marriage which was in trouble due to scheduling. Her relationship with her husband deteriorated because they had creative differences on the albums. Mariah wanted more control on her albums and her husband was controlling. In 1997, they separated and their divorce was finalized by 2000. Mariah started dating singer Luis Miguel from 1998 to 2001.
Mariah met comedian Nick Canon while she was shooting her music video for the song ‘Bye Bye’. They started dating and got married on April 30, 2008 in the Bahamas. Mariah gave birth to their fraternal twins, Moroccan and Monroe on 30th April 2011. The couple separated in August 2014 and Nick filed for divorce in December 2012. The divorce was finalized in 2016 and Mariah started dating Australian billionaire James Packer. They announced their engagement on January 2016. In October the same year, they announced that their engagement had ended. Mariah is an active Episcopalian, she believes in God and self-improvement.
Written by: Emily Smith